Monday, April 25, 2016

Random health assessment: Resting heart rate

Just for shits and giggles, I decided to check my resting heart rate. I had been riding my bike as a daily commute, averaging 25kph to work and 22kph from work, and I wanted to see if there was a benefit to all this bike commuting.

According to topendsports, an average resting heart rate of someone 35-40 years old is 71-75 bpm.

My resting heart rate prior to re-starting my bike commute was about 70bpm (and I was 37 at the
time), which put me right around average, maybe slightly on the border with "above average." As a point of reference, my resting heart rate when I was a vasity swimmer in high school - at 16 years of age - was 47 bpm, which put me well within the athlete level.

Now, it's not surprising that resting heart rate will increase with age, but moving from an athlete level to average means that I knew what it was like, and 70 bpm seemed really fast. But now, my resting heart rate is roughly 55 bpm, which works out to being on the upper end of "athlete" for a man in my age category.

And that feels nice.

Maybe it is also time to check my BMI (with recognition of problems of height and muscle density) and my blood pressure?

Friday, April 22, 2016

No, socialism almost certainly isn't what that anecdote on Facebook wants to scare you to think it is

Recently, a friend of mine posted a story about an economics professor failed his class, because the students gave a misguided understanding of a socialist nation that Obama would bring, and because - as you follow the story - of the professor's own complete lack of understanding of what socialism is (beyond an equivalency between socialism in general and a hyperbolic representation of Stalinism and Maoism). When someone pointed out to him that - as a person so serves in the US military - wasn't he a member of a socialist organization, my friend denied it, pointing out how he is graded and promoted based on his merits, and that isn't how socialism works.

But my friend is wrong; his idea of socialism (and that of the anecdotal - and most likely fictional - professor) is not how socialism works. The US military is a socialist organization, because socialism is a political (and economic) system that says that the society owns and regulates production, distribution, and exchange. And, in the case of the military, this is exactly what the US government does. Specifically, the US military:

1. regulated by the government (socialist!)
2. is operated (ostensibly) for the benefit of the society (socialist!)
3. is paid by taxes drawn from society (socialist!)
4. is not permitted to make decisions based on profit motivation (socialist!)

One could also point out that the Commander in Chief is not a part of the military, but a civilian (who could be a veteran) that is voted by popular vote (well, kind of) of all citizens (and - since there are no slaves and very few nationals that aren't citizens - this is also socialist control, albeit a step removed).

In contrast, a private military of mercenaries might be regulated by government (but historically they haven't had such strong regulations, and often the companies that paid for them insisted upon the right to use their militaries as they saw fit, even in the name of the nation the company represented), is often operated for the benefit of those who pay for it (which is not a society at large), the monies may be drawn from private coffers (or - historically - was given as a cut of booty), and they are allowed to make decisions based on profit motive (although this could be curtailed to an extent by contracts of guaranteed monopolies, such as were given to the British East India Company and the Dutch East Indies Company).

If one understands that "socialism" means many more things than "Marxism" (let alone "Stalinism" and "Maoism"), one can actually start to understand that Lincoln's "government of the people, for the people, by the people" is actually socialism. You will note that the VA - and all the veteran care programs that preceded it - were socialism. You will note that public roads, bridges, and highways are socialism. Police and fire services are socialism. Sewage treatment and drinking water provision are socialism. Even tax breaks based on having a mortgage is socialism.

It is, therefore, possible to have a highly socialist system that isn't based around the presuppositions of what socialism is that the story above describes. Never mind that such anecdotes completely fail to understand what socialism - let alone Marxist socialism - actually is, how modern democratic socialism actually operates (and how communist socialism along the lines of Stalinism and Maoism preferred political propaganda and party-line politics to the ideals of even Marxist socialism), and how much of the modern United States is built heavily upon socialism. (Indeed, the only thing that such stories tend to highlight is the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action.)

IOW, meritocracy and socialism need not be at odds, despite all the anecdotes and stories like the one above paint socialism as being.

Conversely, one can look at militaries that were not socialist organizations, and if one looks at many militaries across time, one will note that militaries rarely operated on meritocracy, were rarely operated for the benefit of a nation of citizens, and often were associated with private interests that purchased the use of that military to further its own (non civic) ends. Thus were the British East India Company and the Dutch East Indies Company operated, not to mention all the funding of mercenary armies that Venice did from medieval times through to the 18th Century.

Furthermore, simply being a republic or a democratic republic does not mean that meritocracy is the general condition. Look at the history of pretty much every European power prior to 1917: they were (for the most part) democratic (or moving in that direction), but still *heavily* class-based and not-at-all meritocratic. As was much of the United States at the same time (although less so than in Europe, and less so in the military).

In sum, if one thinks that socialism is and can only be *Marxist* socialism, then this would be like saying that "the right to bear arms" is and can only be referring to Revolutionary War-era weaponry. It is, in other words, a comparison that is only seen to be not-at-all ridiculous by people who ony have enough knowledge about the subject to make them sound silly when they make such claims.

When do you translate a name?

This morning, I was listening to the morning 24horas broadcast, and listened to the story about the 90th birthday of Reina Isabel (Queen Elisabeth). The next story was about a book fair where people could buy books from great authors, including William Shakespeare.

Waitasec... Why translate "Elizabeth" into "Isabel" but not "William" into "Guillermo"?

I already knew that European explorers during the "Age of Discovery" were all given transliterations into various languages, with "Christopher Columbus" being known as "Cristóbal Colón" in Spanish and "Christoph Kolumbus" in German; "Amerigo Vespucci" is known as "Américo Vespúcio" in Portuguese and Spanish; and "Ferdinand Magellan" is known as "Fernando de Magallanes" in Spanish and "Ferdinando Magellano" in Italian. True, the differences were not often great, but many of the "great European explorers" of that era are known by their transliterated names (so if a German typed "Christoph Kolumbus" into the Spanish-language Wikipedia, they don't get to the "Crist{obal Colón" page).

But what about authors and monarchs?

I went to look at the Spanish-language Wikipedia page for William Shakespeare, and it is: William Shakespeare. There is no other moniker by which he is referenced on the Wikipedia page (which I use as my easy-access translator). And so I went a little further, and checked other Latin-script alphabets, and they all called him "William Shakespeare." Even in Gaelic and Hungarian, the spelling remained the same, despite their highly distinct orthography. But the entry on Queen Elizabeth II all had the name and title always translated into the linguistic equivalents.

Okay, so what about other famous English-named authors?
  • James Joyce is always spelled JAMES JOYCE in all Latin-script Wikipedia pages.
  • Mark Twain is always spelled MARK TWAIN (and his real name is always spelled SAMUEL LONGHORN CLEMENS) in all Lantin-script Wikipedia pages.
  • Jane Austen is always spelled JANE AUSTEN
What about Classical-era authors and philosophers?
  • Homer is transliterated into different versions (e.g., Homero, Gomer)
  • Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus) is translated into different versions (e.g., Plinio el Viejo, Idősebb Plinius)
  • Aristotle (which is transliterated from the Greek Ἀριστοτέλης) is transliterated into different versions (e.g., Arastotail, Arystoteles)

So it seems that famous English authors retain their names (at least since Shakespeare forward), but names from the Roman Empire and before got transliterated (and translated when there were descriptors associated with that name). What about monarchs?
  • William I (aka William the Conqueror) has his name translated into the native version in all cases.
  • Charles I of Sweden is translated from the Swedish Karl I, and it is subsequently translated into the local variants of Charles/Karl.
  • Stephen I of Hungary is translated from the Hungarian Istvan I, and it, too, is translated into the local variants of Stephen/Istvan.
  • Al-Mansur of the Persian Abbasid Caliphate is known as homonymous versions of either "Al-Mansur" or "Abu Ja'far" in all Latin-script Wikipedia pages.
  • Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire is known by homonymous verions of "Ibrahim" (not "Abraham") in all Latin-script Wikipedia pages.
So European monarchs have their names translated, while non-European monarchs apparently don't, even when the name exists within a European context, such as with Ibrahim I. But then what about non-monarchical heads of state?
  • Thomas Jefferson remains spelled THOMAS JEFFERSON, despite there being transliterations of Thomas in other European languages.
  • George Washington remains spelled GEORGE WASHINGTON, despite there being transliterations of George in other European languages.
  • Oliver Cromwell remains spelled OLIVER CROMWELL, even though there are many different versions of Oliver across Europe.
So, monarchs have their names translated. Non-monarchical heads of state don't have their names translated. Interestingly, when I looked up non-monarchical heads of state on the Russian pages, their names were transliterated from the pronunciation in the original language, so "Charles de Gaulle" was transliterated to "Sharl de Goll," which is far closer to the French pronunciation than if they had used the same transliteration that they did with Charles Darwin ("Charlz Darvin").

I guess the rules for translating names of people (between European languages) are:

  1. If it is a European monarch, you translate the name to the local language equivalent.
  2. If it is a Classical anyone famous, you transliterate and/or translate the name to the local language equivalent.
  3. If it is an explorer from the Age of Discovery, you translate the name to the local language equivalent.
  4. If it is anyone else, you leave the spelling as-is.